The game of chess
STAGE GUILD PLAYS
THE GAME OF CHESS
THE STAGE GUILD
PLAYS & MASQUES
By Kenneth Sawyer Goodman
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THE GAME OF CHESS
A PLAY IN ONE ACT
KENNETH SAWYER GOODMAN
VAUGHAN & GOMME
Copyright 1914 by
Kenneth Sawyer Goodman
All rights reserved
NOTICE: Application for permis
sion to perform this play in the
United States should be made to
The Stage Guild, Railway Ex
change Building, Chicago; and
application for permission to per
form it elsewhere should be made
to Mr. B. Iden Payne, The Gaiety
Theatre, Manchester, England.
No performance of it may take
place without consent of the
owners of the acting rights.
THE GAME OF CHESS was first produced by B.
I den Payne under the auspices of the Chicago
Theatre Society at the Fine Arts Theatre,
November i8th, 1913, with the following caste:
ALEXIS ALEXANDROVITCH . . .Walter Hampden
BoRisIvANOviTCHSHAMRAYEFF Whitford Kane
CONSTANTINE . . . .T. W. Gibson
FOOTMAN Howard Plinge
....--- -* - -
THE GAME OF CHESS
The Scene is a wainscoted room in the house of
ALEXIS. High windows at the back left;
at the right back is a double door giving
into an ante-room; against the right wall
is a couch; in the left wall near the back is
a small door; nearer the audience, on the
same wall a chimney breast with a carved
mantel; under the window, at the back,
another couch and several chairs give the
room a luxurious air. ALEXIS and CON-
STANTINE are playing chess at a small
table in front of an open fire. There is a
large table in the centre of the stage with
fruit, a flagon of wine and glasses.
ALEXIS. You seem to have lost your cun
CONSTANTINE. Wait !
ALEXIS. Perhaps the pawn?
CONSTANTINE. No. [He moves.] So!
ALEXIS. Ah, ha! That, eh? Well, well!
The cunning is returning, is it?
STAGE GUILD PLAYS
[He strikes a little bell beside him
and again scans the board.]
CONSTANTINE. Is the hour up, your excel
ALEXIS. No, no! We still have ten minutes
CONSTANTINE. Your excellency tires of the
ALEXIS. No, I never tire of the game. When
I do that, I shall tire of life itself. Chess is as
much a gauge of a man's mental development as
love or war or politics or any other game. When
I play bad chess, I shall have ceased to be a com
petent governor. We patricians do not justify
our lives by the toil of our hands. We should
tune the machinery inside our skulls to its high
est effectiveness. We must keep it tuned and
timed and oiled. Ah, yes, it is that way we
serve. When the machine balks or stops we are
CONSTANTINE. But your excellency was think
ing of other things.
ALEXIS. Was I so? Well, well! We shall
see, we shall see ! I was thinking of other things,
eh? [He makes a move swiftly.] There, match me
that if you can.
CONSTANTINE. Ah! The one move that
could have saved your king !
THE GAME OF CHESS
ALEXIS. There you have it! I doze, I dream,
my mind wanders, and then it comes in a flash.
The one move on the board! It is by such
flashes I know myself.
CONSTANTINE. Your excellency has inspira
ALEXIS. Perhaps! But behind inspiration,
always, the technique of the game.
[A footman enters.]
FOOTMAN. Your excellency rang?
ALEXIS. Is the man, Shamrayeff, waiting?
FOOTMAN. A man, Boris I vanovitch Shamray
eff, with a letter from your excellency, is waiting
in the secretary's room.
ALEXIS. You may bring him here in three
FOOTMAN. Pardon, excellency, but the secre
tary wishes to know if the orders received from
Mr. Constantine are correct.
ALEXIS. What orders?
FOOTMAN. That the man, Boris I vanovitch
Shamrayeff, is not to be searched.
ALEXIS. There is no occasion to search the
man. [FOOTMAN bows and withdraws.]
10 STAGE GUILD PLAYS
ALEXIS. [TocoNSTANTiNE.] Your move, my
dear Constantine. We have exactly two min
utes to finish the game and one minute for
questions. [He lays his watch beside the chess
CONSTANTINE. [Moves.] So!
ALEXIS. Ah! One moment! There! What
now? [He moves.]
CONSTANTINE. This. [He moves.]
ALEXIS. And this ! [He moves.]
CONSTANTINE. Ah ha! I could check-mate
your excellency in five more moves.
ALEXIS. The two minutes are up. Tell me,
you are quite certain that your agents made no
mistake in the matter of this man, Shamrayeff ?
CONSTANTINE. Quite certain, your excellency.
I begged you to have him put under arrest
yesterday. There is absolutely no question.
The man's entire history is in your hands.
ALEXIS. And, in spite of all this, I have
granted him a personal interview. I have given
explicit orders that he is not to be searched. In
short, I must be a fool, eh?
CONSTANTINE. I cannot question your excel
THE GAME OF CHESS II
ALEXIS. Ah, you can't question my judg
ment, eh? But you think! I saw something
behind your eyes just now when you said you
would check-mate me in five moves. You were
thinking," Alexis Alexandrovitch, for all his
fine talk, is not what he used to be. Some
thing has slipped away from him." Do you
think I've become a coward?
CONST ANTINE. Your excellency !
ALEXIS. I sometimes think so, myself; that
sometime there will be no flash, that I shall be
check-mated once and for all. That's why I
keep you here, hour after hour, playing chess
with me; that's why I am tempted to try an
other kind of game with this man, Shamrayeff .
CONSTANTINE. Then you have a definite
reason for seeing this man?
ALEXIS. None that you would understand.
CONSTANTINE. But, in that case, might I
point out to your excellency Surely it would be
ALEXIS. Don't speak to me as if you were
speaking to a child. I know what you think:
"Alexis Alexandrovitch is not what he was.
Things are slipping past him, he needs watch
ing." Well, the time is up. You have your
CONSTANTINE. Shall I take away the chess
12 STAGE GUILD PLAYS
ALEXIS. No, leave them as they are. We'll
finish the game when I ring for you. [CONSTAN
TINE rises and hesitates.] Well, well, well!
You're going to say something. You think the
game won't be finished. We'll see. We'll see
about that !
CONSTANTINE. I beg your excellency
[FOOTMAN enters, followed by SHAM-
FOOTMAN. Boris Ivanovitch Shamrayeff.
[SHAMRAYEFF wears the clothes of a
respectable artisan. He is, ap
parently, somewhat younger
than ALEXIS, strongly built and
has a rather fine but stolid face.
He stands with his cap in his
ALEXIS. So, so! You are Boris Ivanovitch
Shamrayeff, are you? Well, well!
BORIS. Yes, I am Boris Ivanovitch Sham
ALEXIS. You found it hard to get at me, did
you? Hard to get an interview with Alexis
BORIS. Not so hard as I had expected, your
ALEXIS. [To CONSTANTINE and FOOTMAN.]
THE GAME OF CHESS 13
Well, what are you waiting for? This man has
something important to say to me. He's bash
ful. He can't speak out before so many people.
CONSTANTINE. Your excellency, I will wait in
ALEXIS. Nonsense, nonsense! Go into the
garden and think about your game, of chess!
Go ! [CONSTANTINE and FOOTMAN go out.]
ALEXIS. [To BORIS.] Sit down in that chair.
I want to look at you. [BORIS looks around un
easily.] Ah! There is no one watching us. This
room is in a corner of the house nothing but
windows behind you, no balcony, no hangings.
Open the door you came in by there is no one
in the passage. Turn the key, if you like.
[BORIS steps quickly to the main
doors, throws them open, looks
into the passage, shuts them
again, turns the key in the lock
and slips it into his pocket.}
You see we won't be disturbed. Now, sit down
and tell me what you want. [BORIS sits down
but says nothing.] Tongue-tied, eh? You don't
know how to begin? Embarrassed, eh?
BORIS. No. I was only wondering.
ALEXIS. Ha, ha! Wondering, eh?
BORIS. I was wondering why your excellency
chose to give me this opportunity?
14 STAGE GUILD PLAYS
ALEXIS. This opportunity ?
BORIS. [Looking up.] This opportunity to
kill your excellency.
ALEXIS. So, so! To kill me? That's it, is
it? Well, well! I thought as much, but of
course, I couldn't be sure. Well, well! Go on,
BORIS. [Simply.] God has delivered you
into my hands.
ALEXIS. Pah! Leave God out of it ! Don't
give me any such cant nonsense. I doubt if
God takes any interest in either of us. I have
delivered myself into your hands. That's the
simple fact of the matter. I could have trapped
you so easily, too, but I didn't even have you
searched. You may as well take the pistol out
of your pocket.
BORIS. Your excellency seems amused.
ALEXIS. No, no, not amused! I'm only
curious to see you handle the thing morbid
curiosity, if you like. Take it out, man, take it
BORIS. This is a solemn moment for us both,
ALEXIS. Solemn, eh? Well, well! Solemn!
Oh, I suppose it is solemn for you, Boris Ivano-
THE GAME OF CHESS 15
vitch. To me it is simply curious grotesque.
BORIS. [Takes out pistol.] Keep your hand
a little further from that bell, if you please.
ALEXIS. I shan't ring. You would hardly
wait for them to answer the bell, would you?
No, no! I'm not such a fool as to think you'd
do that? Well, well! I lift my hand and you
ALEXIS. Exactly. Well, I won't lift my
BORIS. Nothing on earth can save you,
ALEXIS. Nor you, my friend, for that matter !
You hardly expect to leave the house, shall we
BORIS. I do not expect to leave it alive, ex
ALEXIS. No, that would be asking too much.
I was here to let you in. I won't be able to let
you out again. You will have lost a useful
friend, Boris Ivanovitch.
BORIS. Your excellency !
STAGE GUILD PLAYS
ALEXIS. It is in your hands to end the inter
view. Come, come, you must hate me a great
deal, my friend, to give your own life for the
sake of taking mine.
BORIS. I do not hate you.
ALEXIS. So? How odd! I thought that
everyone of your sort hated me. You might at
least flatter me to the extent of showing some
emotion. Come, come, flatter me to that extent.
BORIS. I do not care to flatter you.
ALEXIS. Ah, well, well! I shall have to do
without it then.
BORIS. My own feelings have nothing to do
with it. I am an instrument of God.
ALEXIS. God again! What has God to do
with it? Do you happen to play a good game
BORIS. [Nervously.] Why do you ask me
such a thing?
ALEXIS. Because you ' interrupted a game
here. Constantine threatened me with check
mate in five more moves. Check-mate in five
moves ! No, no ! Not so easy as that !
BORIS. I have had enough of your jestings,
THE GAME OF CHESS 17
ALEXIS. You wont play then? Well, well!
I had promised myself to finish the game. We
shall see! We shall see!
BORIS. Surely your excellency has some
thing you wish to say
ALEXIS. I have told you once, when you tire
of the interview it is in your hands to end it.
What are you waiting for? You become tedi
BORIS. Have you no desire to pray, excel
ALEXIS. Pray? Pray? Who would listen
to me? No, I'd rather chat.
BORIS. As your excellency likes.
ALEXIS. Yes, yes, we'll chat until you gather
courage to do what you came for.
BORIS. It takes no courage to kill a thing like
ALEXIS. It takes a certain kind of courage to
BORIS. I have been, chosen, excellency.
ALEXIS. So, so! The lot fell on you, did it?
The honor ! The distinction ! You look at it in
that way, don't you? Like the rest of your
kind, you have political ideas, eh?
18 STAGE GUILD PLAYS
BORIS. I have no political ideas.
ALEXIS. No political ideas? Well, well!
No personal hatred? Pray explain yourself,
BORIS. I am a peasant. My father and my
father's father were peasants. You are a noble.
Your line runs back to Tartar princes. It is a
matter of centuries of pain and slavery against
centuries of oppression and violence. I take no
account of today, only of yesterday and tomor
row. Your acts have been cruel and harsh,
doubtless. I hardly know. I throw them out
of the scale. I throw out my own sufferings.
They are not enough in themselves to tip the
balance. You and I are nothing. It is caste
against caste. I gave myself to the revolu
tionary party, yes ! I am their agent as you say,
but I know little of their ideas for Russia. I
care less. I only know that the band to which
I belong represents the struggle which I feel in
my own breast. I am their willing tool. I do
their will because the right of vengeance comes
down to me in the blood.
ALEXIS. Yes, yes ! A fanatic !
BORIS. It is my order against yours.
ALEXIS. Ah, your order against mine, eh?
Centuries of pain against centuries of oppres
sion. Well, well! You set aside to-day, do
you? You throw your own little pains and
THE GAME OF CHESS IQ
penalties out of the scale on one side, and my
little tyrannies and floggings and acts of vil
lainy out on the other? You see yourself only
as the avenger of a caste against a caste. The
right of vengeance and the need of it comes down
to you in the blood, does it? You're exalted
by the breath of dead peasants, are you? It's
because of that and only because of it that you
take pride in the work you have set your hand
to. Huh! Grotesque! You strike the air
with a rod of smoke. You've stumbled upon
the essence of the inane. You're about to
commit a fantastic mockery of Justice.
BORIS. I have held my hand too long!
ALEXIS. Wait! There is still something to
be said; something for you to think of in the
moment between the time you take my life and
the time you take your own. You are about
to kill the man you might have been yourself.
You are about to I, and not you, am Boris
BORIS. What rubbish are you talking now?
ALEXIS. You are Alexis Alexandrovitch!
BORIS. Why ! You are mad !
ALEXIS. Wait ! When you were a child, you
had a foster-brother. You ran with him in the
fields. You slept by his side at night. You
fought with him over rough toys and bits of
20 STAGE GUILD PLAYS
food. When you were seven years old, a man
on horse-back came and took him away. You
never knew his true parentage and your father
flogged you when you cried for him. Can you
BORIS. Aye, I can remember that well.
ALEXIS. Your father deserted your mother
the following year. A little later she died. She
told you nothing of the other child. You went
to Kieff, to the house of your uncle, and became
apprenticed to a bootmaker.
BORIS. Leave off! You can't mystify me by
telling me the story of my own life. It proves
nothing. Your agents have ways of knowing
such things : what I was, what I am, everything.
ALEXIS. Yes! Leave, all that! As you say,
it proves nothing. Yet we are foster-brothers,
you and I .
BORIS. A sign!
ALEXIS. Our good mother was endowed
with a grim sense of humor. She sent her own
boy to be reared as the son of princes, and the
little aristocrat, left with her for safety at the
time of the Makaroff meeting, she sent to
well, you know to what sort of a life she sent
BORIS. Give me a sign !
THE GAME OF CHESS 21
ALEXIS. I have no sign to give you.
BORIS. Ah, ah! What else? What else
have you to tell me?
ALEXIS. I, and not you, am the son of peas
ants. Do you see now why I call your errand
BORIS. Lies! Lies! Lies! What do you
expect to gain by telling me such lies?
BORIS. Do you expect me to believe you?
Do you expect me to embrace you and clap my
hat on my head and toss this pistol out the
window and tell you to do what you like with
ALEXIS. I expect nothing. I know that I
am one dead man talking to another.
BORIS. I can't fathom you. I know there
must be some trick up your sleeve, but I can't
ALEXIS. There is no trick. You asked me
why I chose to give you this opportunity to kill
me. I'm telling you. That's all.
BORIS. Lies! Utterly useless lies !
ALEXIS. No! Utterly useless truth! Do
22 STAGE GUILD PLAYS
you think I wish to believe myself Boris Ivano-
vitch Shamrayeff, born a peasant? I, who have
sat in high places and given my life to preserv
ing an order of men to which I do not belong,
which my blood ought to cry out against. Do
you think I would have believed it if the belief
had not been forced upon me? I have ways of
knowing truth from falsehood, my friend. You
are striking at a man who is dead before you
touch him. What I have found out in the past
week, others already know. I have come to the
end, I tell you. I have been a fantastic dupe.
I cannot go on. I would have killed myself to
day, but I have a horror of taking my own life.
You have come in time to save me from that.
BORIS. Was that your only reason for seeing
ALEXIS. I admit I was curious to see another
man who had been as great a dupe as myself.
BORIS. Lies! Lies! What else? Have you
anything more to say?
ALEXIS. I only ask you to finish your work.
Unless you have a scruple against killing your
In which case, go ! The door is still open to you.
BORIS. [Sneering.] Very pretty! Very touch
ing! Go back, eh? And tell my comrades that
I let Alexis the Red slip through my fingers be
cause he told me a child's story of changeling
foster-brothers? No.no! [He cocks his pistol.]
THE GAME OF CHESS 23
ALEXIS. Kill me, then!
[BORIS raises the pistol.]
ALEXIS. Pull the trigger, man!
BORIS. I can't. There's a chance that what
you have said may be true after all. [He lays
down the pistol.] And yet, I can't live if it's
false. And, by God, I can't live if it's true!
ALEXIS. In either case, we must both die.
BORIS. Aye, you speak the truth there, but
I dare not kill you. I tell, you, I dare not!
There must be some way out ! Some other way !
ALEXIS. Are you brave enough to take poi
son? Yes! Good! Do you see this ring? I
press a spring, so. There is a fine powder under
the stone, so! I drop a few grains into one of
these glasses. We draw lots. One of us drinks
the wine and the other still has your pistol to
use! It is very simple after all.
BORIS. [#i.se.s.] Yah! Now, by God, I see
the trick ! Lies ! Lies ! Every word of it was
lies! I can see through you now. You're
devilishly cunning with your sleight-of-hand,
but I draw no lots for poison with the like of you.
ALEXIS. Have it your own way. See, there's
more than enough for both. Take the glass
24 STAGE GUILD PLAYS
in your own hands, divide it yourself, pour the
wine yourself, and then, to satisfy you, I'll
BORIS. You carry the bluff to the bitter end,
do you? Well, we'll see.
[He mixes the powder and pours the
wine and hands one glass to
ALEXIS. To your easy death, brother.
[He lifts the glass and drinks.]
BORIS. Ah! So you're a brave man after
all! [He lifts the glass and pauses.] What if I
were to leave you now, eh?
ALEXIS. My men have orders to seize you
the moment you leave the room.
BORIS. In that case! [He lifts the glass.] To
your final redemption, brother!
ALEXIS. Sit down! [BORIS sits down.\
BORIS. Have we long to wait?
ALEXIS. Perhaps five minutes. It's a Chi
nese concoction. They call it the draught of
final oblivion. I believe it to be painless. I'm
told that one becomes numb. Do you find
yourself becoming drowsy ?
BORIS. No. My senses seem to be becom-
THE GAME OF CHESS 25
ing more alert. Your voice sounds very sharp
ALEXIS. Lift your hand.
BORIS. It seems very heavy. Are you
afraid of Death, excellency?
ALEXIS. [Eyeing him sharply.} No, I am
not afraid of Death, brother, not in the least.
BORIS. Nor I !
ALEXIS. Good! Now, move your feet.
BORIS. I don't seem to be able to. That's
strange. I can't feel anything.
ALEXIS. Nor I ! Can you get out of your
BORIS [Slowly] I I can hardly move my
hand. I might move by a supreme effort but
I haven't the will. I I feel no pain, only a
ringing in my head.
ALEXIS. So? Well, well! Can you still
BORIS. Yes yes, I can still hear.
ALEXIS. H'm, h'm.
BORIS. Tell me, on your hope of redemption,
was what you said to me just now the truth?
26 STAGE GUILD PLAYS
ALEXIS. On my hope of redemption, eh?
BORIS. If it was, I ask you to forgive me.
ALEXIS. I have nothing to forgive.
ALEXIS. On my hope of redemption, Boris
Shamrayeff, everything I told you was lies!
Lies! Lies! [BORIS struggles painfully to his feet
and lurches toward the table,
where he has laid the pistol.
ALEXIS springs to the table,
seizes the pistol and tosses it
out of the window. BORIS sup
ports himself against the edge of
table, half sitting, half leaning
against it, his mouth open, his
eyes staring. He sways dizzily.
ALEXIS stands before him.}
ALEXIS. Well, you can still speak, can't you?
BORIS. You fiend! You dog! You liar!
Ha, ha, ha! At least you can't escape! No
need for me to strike you !
ALEXIS. Ha, ha!
BORIS. Well ! Sneer at me if you like. You
are feeling the agony too, Alexis Alexandro-
vitch. You can't deny it.
ALEXIS. I am not dying, Boris Shamrayeff.
THE GAME OF CHESS 27
BORIS. But, I know! I saw! I saw you
drink! You're dying, excellency!
ALEXIS. Yes, we drank together, didn't we?
Well, well! And your eye wasn't off me an
instant, was it? And you didn't lift your cup
till I'd drained the last drop of mine, did you?
Well, well, well!
BORIS. I saw you drink what I drank.
ALEXIS. Yes, I did drink it, Boris Ivano-
vitch, didn't I ? But what is sending you down
to fry in Hell with the stupid ghosts of your
bestial ancestors is only embarrassing me with
the slightest of headaches. [He chuckles.]
BORIS. It it is not possible!
ALEXIS. Eh? An oriental trick. A man in
constant fear of poison may accustom himself,
little by little, to a dose that would blast the life
of an ordinary man. A fantastic precaution
these days, only interesting to an antiquarian
like myself. Well, well, you can hear me, can't
you? I tell you I could have taken the entire
mess; half of it seems to have been enough for
you. [BORIS makes an effort to get at
ALEXIS but almost sinks to the
No use, Boris Shamrayeff! I advise you to
hold fast to the table.
28 STAGE GUILD PLAYS
BORIS. Why? Why have you done this
thing to me?
ALEXIS. Body of St. Michael ! I am of one
order, you of another. You are a terrorist, a
Red; the blood of my brother, shot down in the
streets of Kronstadt, the lives of my friends, the
preservation of the sacred empire are these
nothing? Nothing beside your dirty peti
tions of right! Pah! God has delivered YOU
into MY hands. I, and not you, am the instru
ment of God to-day! Boris Ivanovitch, can
you still hear me? Eh?
ALEXIS. So! So! One thing more! Why
did I risk my own life to get yours? You would
like to know that, wouldn't you? Why did I
let you in here at all? You'd ask that if you
could. Ha, ha! Well, it was because men
were thinking that Alexis Alexandrovitch wasn't
what he used to be; because I was beginning to
think so myself. Because I had begun to doubt
my own wits. I had to let myself be brought
to bay. I had to look into the muzzle of your
pistol. I had to pit my life against yours in a
struggle where I had no other weapon, no other
help, than this. [He taps his forehead.] I think
it unlikely that Constantine will check-mate
me in five moves today!
BORIS. Fiend! Fiend! Fiend! [He crumples
up and falls to the floor.]
THE GAME OF CHESS 2Q
ALEXIS. So, it's over, is it? Well, well,
well! [He takes a cover from the couch and
throws it over BORIS and stands
ALEXIS. [As if exorcising a ghost.] To the
night without stars! To the mist that never
lifts! To the bottom of nothingness! Peace
be with you!
[He turns and taps the bell and then
seats himself at the chessboard.
The FOOTMAN enters.]
FOOTMAN. Your excellency rang?
ALEXIS. Go into the garden and find Mr.
Constantine. Tell him I am ready to finish
our game of chess.
[The FOOTMAN bows and with
ALEXIS. [Studying the moves on the chess
board.] So! So! The bishop the queen!
No! Yes, yes! I have it! I have it! Body
of St. Michael, not in five moves, not in five
moves tonight! Ah! Ha, ha! So! So! Well,
[He rubs his hands softly and looks
up just as CONSTANTINE enters.]
This first edition of THE GAME OF CHESS, printed
from type by The Lancaster Printing Com
pany, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in April,
1914, for VAUGHAN & GOMME, New York,
consists of one hundred and fifty copies
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will, however, continue with headquar
ters in the Railway Exchange Building,
Chicago, where all applications for
permission to perform the plays and
masques, and other inquiries of a kin
dred nature, should be addressed, as